Due to COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, students at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM) have been unable to gather together in groups to perform. However, a new Dante audio networking solution from Advanced Systems Group (ASG), a leading media technology and engineering firm, is helping teachers and students collaborate in real time across almost 30 practice and ensemble rooms at the San Francisco-based campus.
According to Jason O’Connell, SFCM director of recording services, string performers were allowed to attend classes in school in person by wearing masks and observing social distancing. However, there were very strict restrictions for singers, as well as brass and woodwind players, who were not allowed to perform in the same room together.
While the school was able to have lessons via videoconferencing and even cell phones, latency issues made it impossible to perform together – and sound quality, particularly with vocals, was problematic. SFCM needed a solution that would allow groups of singers and musicians to work together while spread across the building in separate rooms.
In July, ASG arranged for a test using Focusrite RedNet X2P audio interfaces, which include microphone inputs for the vocalist or musician. The compact units connect through SFCM’s existing Ethernet, and use Dante audio networking to send and receive real-time, high-quality audio.
Sources are fed to a Yamaha mixer in the concert hall (where the strings players are located), and the audio mix is fed back to the performers. Each performer can adjust their headphones to raise or lower the volume of their own performance as well as that of the entire ensemble. The system also supports personal or group communication with the instructor.
O’Connell said it only took a few minutes to confirm the system would be effective for the school. By August, SFCM had 25 RedNet X2P units across the facility in classrooms, offices, practice rooms, and studio spaces.
“This was a problem we needed to solve immediately that we never faced before, and we got a lot of support from ASG,” said Kelley Coyne, assistant director of recording services. “It was really great to see the faculty members actually hear their students sing for the first time in months.”
With the Dante-based system, there is less than 10ms of delay. “We have not received a single complaint about latency,” O’Connell reported, “and our faculty and students are extremely sensitive to timing.”
While SFCM still cannot host an audience, it has been able to produce concerts using the ASG solution and stream the performances to the school’s YouTube and Vimeo channels. O’Connell also said ASG is helping with AV integration at the Bowes Center, SFCM’s new 12-story building that will more than double the size of the school’s facilities once completed. “ASG has been great,” he added. “They’re super responsive and quick to help you with ideas.”
Based in the San Francisco Bay Area with offices in the New York Metro Area, Los Angeles, and the Rocky Mountain Region, Advanced Systems Group LLC has provided engineering, systems, integration, support, and training to the multimedia creative and corporate video markets for more than 20 years. With unmatched experience in high-speed shared storage, media asset management, archiving, editing, color and VFX systems, ASG has become one of the largest installers of post-production and shared storage systems in North America. Highly focused on customer success, the ASG team has installed and supported more than 500 storage networks, along with production and post-production systems. As part of its complete solution approach, ASG also offers a range of managed services, providing expert staffing for media production and event management. For more information, visit www.asgllc.com or call 510-654-8300.